• Dave Nagle's Statesmanlike Exit Speech?

    • Posted on Jun 05, 2002


    You got to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em, sang Kenny Rogers in his song "The Gambler," and Cedar Falls lawyer and perennial congressional candidate Dave Nagle now knows it's time to fold 'em.

    Last Wednesday, after his trouncing in the primary by Bettendorf mayor Ann Hutchinson, Nagle did not go gently into that good night.  Nor with much class, truth be told.

    Instead, he joked "the people have spoken, the bastards," and wouldn't endorse Hutchinson, whom he characterized in his ads as a closet Republican, if not an out-an-out traitor.  Hutchinson actually did belong to the Republican party, and sought a job with the current Bush administration, but joined the Democratic party to run against Nussle in Iowa's first district.

    That's probably good old political opportunism more than traitorhood.  Still, we might forgive Nagle for feeling bitter, if not downright rejected by his own people. He's human, after all, and has sought for years to regain the Congressional seat he lost to Nussle a decade ago. 

    Losing the primary by almost 4500 votes in an election where only 20,000 votes were cast, and even losing his own county by 29 votes had to hurt like hell. 

     Nagle also burned a couple of political bridges by expressing "deep resentment" for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's decision to endorse Hutchinson, which he called "unprecedented, foolish, and unwise."  He also lashed out at the UAW and the Quad Cities Federation of Labor's endorsement of his opponent, suggesting their support probably helped Hutchinson to her large margin of victory. 

    So he's right to get out of politics once and for all, and his desire to devote time to charities seems commendable. 

    Yet one would hope that Nagle's hard knocks would have contributed some perspective, some wisdom, maybe even a nod toward becoming a wise elder statesman.

    Jimmy Carter comes to mind as a role model.  Gracious in losing, Carter  commands more admiration now than he ever did as President.  Losers don't have to sink into their own self-pity and bitterness. 

    Instead of revealing his understandable pain,  Nagle might have given a speech after his loss that would have demonstrated that he's ready for a new calling and a new challenge as a role model.

    Forgive this presumptuousness, but it might have gone something like this:

    "Thank you, fellow Democrats who voted for me.  I wish there were about ten thousand more of you.

    "I'm here to concede this primary to Mayor Ann Hutchinson.  I'm happy for her, and congratulate her on winning by such a clear margin.  And I'm here to say that as Democrats we must now focus on our primary goal of winning back Iowa's First Congressional District for the Democratic Party. 

    I will help make that happen, and hope next November to congratulate Congresswoman Hutchinson as she goes to Iowa to represent Iowa's great First Congressional District.

    "However, I must also admit that I was probably wrong to run again. Though many supporters remember the old days, when we won and served well in Congress, those days are gone. I've enjoyed campaigning, and have learned from talking to thousands of Iowans what's really important not only in politics, but also in life.

    "I learned that politics isn't the only way to make a difference in public life.

    In fact, it may not work as well as other ways.  Too many politicians spend most of their time getting re-elected, and that seems wasteful, given all the work we have to do.

    I will work for environmental causes, insisting that we pay more attention to the growing evidence of global warming coming from our own actions.  

     "I also learned that the gap between the rich and the poor grows ever wider, and politics has done little to close it.  More than ever, we need independent voices insisting on a better system of electing and supporting politicians.  I will work for that any way I can. 

    "Finally, fellow Democrats, I learned that life is full of opportunities, and I don't have to seek office to take advantage of them.”


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  • Furloughing State Legislators? Think Nebraska

    • Posted on Mar 17, 2002


    Let's see, English as an official state language in our monolingual culture.  Requiring American flags in school classrooms, many of which teach freedom as a primary American virtue.

    Designing a better kind of marriage, requiring a worse kind of divorce.  Legislating a moment of silence in the classroom.  

    Such beside-the-point state legislation must make Iowans wonder whether we're getting real legislative value for our money.

    We pay these folks reasonably well for their work, and their work this year should give us pause.  Maybe it’s time to furlough a few state legislators. If it’s good for other state workers, it’s even better for lawmakers and might show them how their decisions actually affect constituents.    

    How to accomplish a legislator furlough that would save some serious state funds?  Here's a model that really works:  Nebraska's unicameral legislature.  

    It's a model of efficiency and decorum, and far cheaper than our current cumbersome bicameral two-party, two-house system.  Nebraska uses only 49 legislators, all of whom are designated "Senators."

    What, you say, just 49 legislators right next door in Nebraska?  Iowa employs 150, and thanks to party loyalties, they fight like alley cats.  That's three times as many party-driven legislators, and each of their wrangles costs taxpayers, as does every legislator. Some of those party in-fights turn into party loyalty tests, others result in feel-good symbolic legislation, laughable if it weren't so expensive.    

    When Nebraska started their system in 1937, they went from 133 party-loyal legislators to 49 non-partisan Senators.  In other words, they permanently furloughed close to 2/3 of their legislature in one wise swoop.  And they never looked back.

    Nebraska’s system, incidentally, is based on a smaller population base.  They elect one Senator for every 32,200 Nebraskans.  If Iowans did that, we’d need around 93 Senators, but that’s still 57 fewer than we have now. 

    At their current salary of $21,380 for a 100-day session, Iowa would immediately save $1,218,660.  That’s practically enough to cover UNI’s latest budget cut.  And there would be more savings from fewer expenses, fewer party squabbles, and fewer committees to muck up the works.

    In Nebraska they crow over their system, which is the smallest and most efficient in the country.  They assert that when their unicameral system began, “The number of Committees was pared down from 61 to 18,” and “the first unicameral session ran 98 days, passed 214 bills and cost $103, 445.”  In contrast, their last bicameral session in 1936 ran 110 days, passed 192 bills, and cost $202,593. No wonder they love their unicameral system.  Iowans should be so lucky. 

    Costs went down, efficiency went up, and everyone in Nebraska still seems happy with unicameralism.  It’s far better than biannual sessions, which Iowa used for years, and far more efficient than Iowa’s current bicameral gamesmanship. 

    Now some benighted souls might object to an Iowa unicameral legislature, insisting that there’s no way to stop partisan bickering, that in fact political parties insure debate on issues of genuine concern.

    Moreover, say objectors, many states have discussed the advantages of a unicameral legislature but none have adopted it.  Like them, Iowa won't change because of tradition and inertia--a potent combination.   

    To such objectors I say:  Go, Big Red. 

    Here’s a Midwestern state with the same values as Iowa, with outstanding educational institutions, facing many of the same issues with which Iowa struggles, which governs their state for far less state funding than Iowa, even adjusting for population. 

    To say that we can’t do it because we will lose debate on issues makes little sense.  Nebraska legislators debate plenty of issues, just with less political bickering.  Nor should we let tradition stand in our way in these hard budget times. Given the lack of state revenues, we all must adjust.

    Iowans need to examine Nebraska's legislative system with an eye to changing ours.

    We can limp along with our expensive, broken-down legislative system.  Or we can fix it. 

    If it's good enough for Cornhuskers, it's probably almost good enough for Hawkeyes.  

    Go comment!
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